On Eagles Wings Ministries
Divine Love Outpoured
We shall devote this session to one final, supremely important result produced in the believer by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is described by Paul in the letter to the Romans.
The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (5:5).
We need to grasp the significance of that phrase, “the love of God.” Paul is not speaking here about human love or even about love for God. He is speaking about the love of God – God’s own love – which the Holy Spirit pours out in the believer’s heart. This love of God, imparted by the Holy Spirit, is as high above any form of mere human love as heaven is above earth.
In the normal course of our lives we experience many different types of love. For instance, there is a form of love, so-called, which is mere sexual passion. Then there is the married love of husband and wife for each other. Again, within the human family, there is the love of parents for children and of children for parents. Outside the bonds of the family, there is the love of one friend for another, such as the love of David and Jonathan for each other.
The Nature of God’s Love
All these and other forms of love, in varying degree, are found in all sections of the human race, even where the gospel of Jesus has never been preached. The Greek language, which has a rich vocabulary, has various words to describe these different forms of love. There is one word, however, which is used primarily for love which is divine in its origin and nature. As a noun, this word is agape; as a verb, agapao.
Agape denotes the perfect love between the Persons of the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Spirit. It denotes the love of God toward man – that is, the love which caused God the Father to give His Son, and Jesus the Son to give His life, that man might be redeemed from sin and its consequences. It denotes also the love God through His Holy Spirit imparts to the hearts of those who believe in Jesus.
This enables us to understand the words of the apostle in 1 John.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (4:7-8).
The Greek words which John uses are agape and agapao. John teaches that there is a kind of love, agape, which no one can experience unless he has been born of God. Love of this kind comes only from God.
Anyone who in any measure manifests this kind of love has, in that measure, come to know God through the new birth. Conversely, a person who has never known or manifested this love in any measure has never known God; for in the measure that a person comes to know God, he is in that measure changed and transformed by the divine love, so that he himself begins to manifest it to others.
As John here indicates, this manifestation of agape – of divine love – commences in human experience with the new birth. This is in harmony with the words of Peter.
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Pet. 1:22-23).
Where Peter says, “Love one another fervently with a pure heart,” the verb for “love” which he uses is once again that for divine love – agapao. He directly connects this possibility of professing Christians’ manifesting the divine love with the fact that they have been born again of the incorruptible seed of God’s Word. That is to say, the potentiality of divine love is contained within the divine seed of God’s Word implanted in their hearts at the new birth.
However, God intends for this initial experience of divine love, received at the new birth, to be immeasurably increased and expanded through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Paul says:
The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5:5).
Once again, it is the word for divine love – agape – which Paul uses. The verb which he joins with it – “has been poured out” – is in the perfect tense. The use of the perfect tense indicates, as usual in Greek, finality and completeness. The meaning is that in this one act of baptising the believer in the Holy Spirit, God has emptied out into the believer’s heart all the fullness of the divine love. Nothing has been reserved or held back; all has been poured out. Thereafter the believer does not need to seek more of God’s love; he needs only to accept, to enjoy and to manifest that which he has already received within.
For the Spirit-baptised believer to ask God for more of His love is like a man who lives on the bank of the Mississippi River to seek for some other supply of water. Such a person already has at his disposal infinitely more than he can ever need to use. All that he needs is to utilise the supply already made available to him.
In like manner, Jesus says the Spirit-baptised believer already has within himself not merely one river, but “rivers of living water” – rivers of divine grace and love – infinitely in excess of any need that can ever arise in that believer’s life (see John 7:38-39).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul defines the precise nature of this divine love, poured out within the believer by the Holy Spirit.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Jesus died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us (5:6-8).
Paul points out that even natural love, apart from the grace of God, might impel a man to die for his friend, if that friend were a good and righteous man – just as natural love, in another form, might cause a mother to give her life for her child. Paul then shows that the supernatural, divine love of God is seen in the fact that Jesus died for sinners who could have had no claim upon any kind of natural love whatever.
To describe the condition of those for whom Jesus died, Paul uses three successive phrases: “without strength . . . ungodly . . . sinners.” This means that those for whom Jesus died were, at that time, utterly unable to help themselves, totally alienated from God and in open rebellion against Him. It was in dying for people such as this that Jesus manifested agape – the divine love – in its perfect fullness.
John defines the divine love in a similar way.
In this the love [agape] of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).
The divine love does not depend upon anything worthy of love in those to whom it is directed, nor does it wait to be reciprocated before it gives all. On the contrary, it gives first and freely to those who are unlovable, unworthy and even in open rebellion. Jesus expressed this divine love in His prayer for those who were crucifying Him.
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34).
The same divine love is expressed in the dying prayer of the martyr Stephen for those who were stoning him:
Lord, do not charge them with this sin (Acts 7:60).
The same love is expressed again in the words of one who was an eager witness of Stephen’s stoning – Saul of Tarsus, later the apostle Paul. Concerning his own Jewish brethren, who had consistently rejected and persecuted him,
I tell the truth in Jesus, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Jesus for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh (Rom. 9:1-3).
So greatly did Paul yearn for the salvation of his persecuting Jewish brethren that he would have been willing to forego all the blessings of salvation for himself and return under the curse of unforgiven sin with all its consequences, if this could bring his brethren to Jesus. Paul acknowledges that the experience and realization of this love was made possible only through the presence of the Holy Spirit within, for he says, “. . . my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.”
Love Is the Greatest
We have said that among the various purposes for which God gives the gift of the Holy Spirit, this pouring out of divine love within the believer’s heart occupies a place of unique importance. The reason for this is that, without the all-pervading influence of divine love in the believer’s heart, all the other results which may be produced by the baptism in the Holy Spirit lose their true significance and fail to accomplish their true purpose.
Paul uses a vivid series of examples to emphasise the unique importance of this agape love.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-2).
With characteristic humility, Paul puts himself in the place of a believer who exercises spiritual gifts but lacks divine love. In the previous chapter of 1 Corinthians he enumerated nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. He now imagines himself to be one who exercises various of these gifts, but who lacks love.
First he considers the possibility of exercising the gift of tongues on such a high supernatural plane that he speaks not only unknown human languages but even the language of angels. He says that if he were to do this without divine love, he would be no better than a gong or a cymbal that produces a loud noise when it is struck but is quite empty inside.
Then he considers the possibility of exercising other outstanding spiritual gifts – such as prophecy, or the word of wisdom, or the word of knowledge or faith. But he says that if he should exercise any or all of these gifts without divine love, he would be absolutely nothing.
These words of Paul provide the answer to a question which is being asked in many circles today: Is it possible to misuse the gift of tongues? The answer to this is clear: Yes, it is perfectly possible to misuse the gift of tongues. Any use of tongues apart from divine love is a misuse, because it renders the believer who exercises it no better than an empty, clanging gong or cymbal, and this was certainly never the purpose for which God bestowed the gift.
This applies equally to the other gifts which Paul mentions in the next verse – prophecy, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge and faith. To use any of these gifts apart from divine love is to miss the whole purpose of God.
However, experience proves again and again that there is a special danger in misusing the three spiritual gifts which operate through the organs of speech – that is, tongues, interpretation and prophecy. This is confirmed by the fact that Paul devotes the greater part of the next chapter – 1 Corinthians 14 – to giving rules to control and regulate the use of these three particular gifts. If there were no possibility of believers misusing these gifts, there would be no need to give rules for their control. The fact that rules are given proves that rules are needed.
However, in interpreting the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1, it is necessary to pay close attention to the exact words he uses. He says:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
Note the phrase “I have become.” These words indicate a change. The believer here pictured is not now in the same spiritual condition as he was when he was originally baptised in the Holy Spirit.
At that time, he had the assurance that his sins were forgiven and that his heart was cleansed through faith in Jesus. He was willing to yield himself, as fully as possible, to the control of the Holy Spirit. In this condition, the initial manifestation of speaking with another tongue indicated that the Holy Spirit had come to indwell the believer and take control of his life.
However, in the period that has since elapsed, the believer here pictured by Paul has retained the outward manifestation but – through carelessness or disobedience – has not retained the same inward condition of cleansing and yieldedness to the Holy Spirit. Thus the process of speaking with tongues has degenerated into a mere outward physical manifestation without any corresponding inward spiritual reality.
To see this experience in its proper perspective, we must set side by side two facts which are confirmed both by Scripture and by experience.
First, at the time of being baptised in the Holy Spirit, a believer must fulfil two conditions: His heart must be purified by faith in Jesus, and he must be willing to yield control of his physical members – in particular, his tongue – to the Holy Spirit.
Second, the fact that the believer was cleansed and yielded at the time of his baptism in the Spirit is not an automatic guarantee that he will always remain in that condition, even though he may still continue to speak in tongues.
At this point many people are likely to exclaim: “But surely if the person began to misuse God’s gift, God would withdraw the gift from him altogether!”
However, this supposition is not supported either by logic or by Scripture.
From the viewpoint of logic, if a gift, once given, could thereafter be withdrawn at the will of the giver, then it was never a genuine gift in the first place. It was a loan or a conditional deposit, but not a free gift. A free gift, once given, passes out of the control of the giver and is thereafter under the sole control of the one who received it – whether to use, to abuse or not to use at all. Scripture confirms this point of logic: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29).
This word irrevocable used here of God, and not of man, indicates that once God has given a gift, He never withdraws the gift again. Thereafter the responsibility to make the proper use of the gift rests not with God, the giver, but with man, the receiver. This important principle applies in all areas of God’s dealing with man, including that of the gifts of the Spirit.
This conclusion should be weighed with sober care by all those who are seeking or who have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of speaking with other tongues. According to Scripture, it is not possible to receive this initial baptism without this outward manifestation. But it is possible, thereafter, to have the outward manifestation without retaining the inward fullness of the Spirit.
There is only one sure, scriptural test of continuing fullness of the Holy Spirit, and that is the love test. In the measure that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, in the same measure we shall be filled with divine love. We are not more filled with the Holy Spirit than we are filled with divine love. John applies this test in clear, simple terms.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us . . . God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him (1 John 4:12-13,16).
Likewise, Paul assigns to love a place of unique honour among all God’s gifts and graces.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13).
Of all the operations of the indwelling Spirit, the greatest and most enduring is the pouring out of divine love in the believer’s heart.
In these last four chapters we have considered eight important results which God desires to produce in the life of each individual believer through baptising him in the Holy Spirit.
- Power to witness.
- The exalting and glorifying of Jesus.
- A foretaste of heaven’s power and an entrance thereby into a supernatural life.
- Help in prayer, lifting the believer far above his own natural strength or understanding.
- A new understanding of the Scriptures.
- Daily guidance in the path of God’s will.
- Life and health for the physical body.
- The pouring out of God’s love in the believer’s heart.
In our next session we will consider results produced by this same experience in the life and worship of a Christians congregation.